How to up your hosting game for the holidays
The holiday season is almost here, which means lots of party planning. Do you have what it takes to be an expert host?
Tips for hosting at a venue
First things first: pick the date.
When you have the date in mind, seek out the caterer and venue for your event. The best advice from both Megan Sherrill with Ludger’s Catering and Kelly Jo Rickman with Post Oak Lodge is to “book now.” Vendors book on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you set up your catering service and/or venue, the better.
Make the guest list.
Once you assemble the guest list, get those invitations on their way. Email, text or Facebook invites are all great ways to reach out. If you want to make it a little more personal, you can send invitations in the mail. However, following up with guests via text or email after mailing invitations is always a good idea. Include a map image in addition to providing the address to help the guest locate your party. Ask for RSVPs at least two weeks in advance.
Do your research.
For a catering service, select one that can fulfill the needs of your guests. Ask for any allergies or diet restrictions when the guest RSVPs. Gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly meals are in demand right now, according to Sherrill. Providing non-alcoholic drinks like “mocktails” or punch is important for those who don’t drink. Communicating your guests’ dietary needs with the caterer helps them best serve your party.
Make sure you know exactly what your venue and caterer provide and what you will need to prepare yourself. Some customize their services to your budget and needs, and others have a fixed price and service. Look around and find what best suits you and your guests.
Some venues offer their own buffets and bars and can offer additional services or recommend resources on their vendors list. Venues like Post Oak Lodge work with you to figure out which services fit your budget, according to Rickman.
With a venue, make sure you are there in advance to oversee the set-up. Bring your own decorations if you have a particular theme in mind.
Tips for the home hostess
If you’re hosting the party at your home, preparations can be daunting. Start the process up to three weeks in advance.
Consider your space carefully and creatively.
You will need enough open space in your living room and dining area for your guests to gather comfortably. Rearrange furniture or remove some for the time being, and store it in the garage or another room. You also will need enough dishes and cutlery for all of your guests. If you are hiring a caterer, check with them to see what they provide.
Give extra attention to the kitchen.
Clearing plenty of space in the refrigerator is a must. Catering services should give you reheating instructions for the food they provide.
Plan strategic food prep.
If you are cooking, start several days in advance with dishes that can be reheated easily and stored in the refrigerator. Cooking the day of the event should be reserved for a dish that can’t keep well.
Attend to the day-of details.
The day of the event, have a closet cleared out to hang up coats for people as they arrive. Drinks should be ready in pitchers. Have an ice bucket and glasses set up by the drinks. If you have mocktails or punch, clearly label alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
But don't forget...
Lastly, enjoy yourself. Your No. 1 job as a host is to make a memory for your guests, but don’t forget to be a part of that memory yourself.